My freezer was in dire need of cleaning out, so I made good use of several bags of frozen blueberries and raspberries that had been lingering in the back of the freezer and made a mixed berry jam with orange zest. The cook time for this jam is much shorter than that required for the usual strawberry jam that I make (due to the use of pectin), and jam is is super sweet, so I’ll be using it sparingly and pairing it with foods that aren’t too sweet to begin with. The flavors are bright and fresh, and the orange zest adds a nice little zing to the wild blueberries and raspberries.
Mixed Berry Jam with Orange Zest
(Adapted from Taste of Home’s Canning & Preserving)
Makes 6 half-pint jars of jam
5 cups of frozen or fresh berries (I used 4 cups of frozen wild blueberries and 1 cup of frozen raspberries)
6 1/2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried orange peel OR 4 teaspoons of fresh grated orange peel
1 pouch (3 oz) liquid fruit pectin
- Prep jars for canning. Rehydrate the orange peel (if using) in the lemon juice.
- Defrost the frozen berries. I ran mine under warm water very briefly to get rid of the frost.
- In a large saucepan over high heat, stir together the berries, sugar, lemon juice, and orange peel. Bring to a full rolling boil while stirring constantly.
- Once the mixture has reached a boil, stir in the pectin. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat; skim off foam. Ladle the hot mixture into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles; wipe rims and adjust lids. Process for 5 minutes in boiling water.
Here’s proof that everything that comes out of my kitchen isn’t always chocolate. I made this cake a few weeks ago for a birthday, but it seems to also be fitting for a 4th of July celebration. This Berry Vanilla Cake is made up of vanilla buttercream frosting nestled between two layers of tender vanilla cake, and the top layer of cake is slathered with more frosting and topped with berries. The frosting is unique (to me) in that it’s the first frosting I’ve made that doesn’t use powdered sugar, and the cream and sugar are heated on the stove top until boiling. It takes much more time (compared to the usual mix milk with powdered sugar version) to make this frosting, but the texture is so delicate, light, and creamy and the flavor is so rich yet not overpowering that it will be hard to go back to the my “old” version of frosting.
I opted for berries because I’m not very good at piping and other fancy cake decorating techniques.
Here’s a close up of the last slice of cake after it had been jostled around and been out in warm weather for a few hours. The frosting started to melt a bit, but I can assure you that everything was still really delicious.
Vanilla Layer Cake
(from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts Quicker and Smarter Recipes by Alice Medrich)
Makes one 8-inch 2-layer cake
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6.125 ounces) sugar
1 cup (4.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and hot
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Makes about 2 cups (enough to fill and frost an 8- or 9-inch layer cake or to frost a single layer or 12 cupcakes lavishly)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt, if using unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted or salted butter, slightly softened but still cold, cut into chunks
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F.
- Grease and flour the sides of the cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Add the sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder to the food processor and pulse to blend the ingredients thoroughly.
- Add the cream and butter and pulse quickly, 8 to 10 times, until the ingredients are blended.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse 5 to 6 times.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse 5 to 6 more times, just until the ingredients are blended and smooth. Do not overmix.
- Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Set the pan on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes.
- Slide a thin knife or a small metal spatula around the edges of the cake to detach it from the pan.
- Invert the cake onto the rack and peel off the parchment liner. Turn the cake right side up on the rack to cool completely. Once cooled, the cake keeps, wrapped airtight, at room temperature for 3 days, or in the freezer for up 3 months; bring to room temperature before serving.
- Thoroughly mix the cream, sugar, and salt (if using) in a small saucepan.
- Wipe the sides of the pan clean with a silicone spatula and rinse the spatula (any sugar crystals clinging to it might crystallize the frosting when you use it later).
- Cover the pan, set over medium heat, and heat until the mixture is bubbling all over.
- Uncover the pan, adjust the heat so that the mixture boils actively but not furiously, and cook without stirring for 1 minute.
- Use the spatula to scrape the hot mixture into a medium stainless steel bowl.
- Let cool without stirring, until barely lukewarm, about 45 minutes.
- Set the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water and ice cubes and add the vanilla to the frosting.
- With an electric mixer, gradually beat in the chunks of butter and continue to beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy. If it is not thick or stiff enough, keep it in the ice water and continue to beat until it thickens, or chill the bowl for 15 minutes in the fridge and beat it again. If the frosting is too stiff or cold, set the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water until the frosting starts to melt around the bottom, then beat it or stir briskly with a spatula until it reaches the desired consistency.
Assembling the Cake
- Cut the cake in half so that you have two layers.
- Flip the top layer, cut side up, next to the bottom layer.
- Spread about 2/3 of the frosting over the bottom layer of the cake.
- Set the top layer, cut side down, on the frosting, and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
- Add berries or any other type of decorations.
The original recipe says that the cake keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days, but I refrigerated my cake overnight and ate it the next day after bringing it to room temperature.
Sometimes what I bake is determined by what needs to be used up in my fridge. I had some ricotta leftover from making lasagna and raspberries in the freezer, so this recipe for Raspberry-Ricotta Cake moved up in my list of must-bakes. The vanilla cake is very tender and not too sweet, and the tart raspberries remind me of summer.
(from Bon Appetit, March 2015 – http://www.bonappetit.com/; My notes are in italics between [ ].)
Makes 1 9-inch cake
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta [I used whole milk rocotta]
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries or blackberries, divided [I used frozen raspberries from Trader Joe’s]
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”-diameter cake pan with parchment paper, and lightly coat with nonstick spray.
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
- Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries over top.
- Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.
Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
Preparation: Active – 15 mins; Total – 1 hr. 35 mins
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